British judo in serious decline

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The Independent Online
It was almost business as usual at the National Indoor Arena yesterday as the Heart of England competition opened the season with a healthy total of 600 entries.

But there was no disguising the fact that British judo faces it greatest crisis for over three decades - something acknowledged by the AGM in London on Saturday. The appalling Olympic results in Atlanta and the rapidly diminishing membership of the British Judo Association suggest the sport is in serious decline.

George Kerr, chairman of the BJA for the last six years, accepted "partial responsibility" for the poor Olympics, and he announced an inquiry to look at the problems. Curiously, he has named himself and Densign White, a member of the BJA board of directors, as the key members of the inquiry, something which was met with considerable cynicism at the AGM.

The low morale was voiced by White himself, who told the AGM: "Britain would not win any medals in the next two world championships, or the Sydney Olympics."

But the look, if not the success, of British judo will change from January 1998: all major competitions will be held with one competitor wearing blue and the other white, thus following the European lead.

With a number of the 1996 Olympic team announcing retirement, the autumn competition season will see the younger figures staking their claim. Yesterday, Cheryl Peel, the 20-year-old from London's Budokwai Club, made no mistake in winning the 61kg category, with four straight wins - she is favourite to fill the place held by Diane Bell for so many years.